Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to invite the Māori women leaders behind the Waitangi Tribunal claim on Whānau Ora to an urgent meeting with her following Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare's announcement of a small increase in direct funding.

The Herald understands the PM wants to hold a meeting before the start of Waitangi week on February 3 to thrash out their complaints.

Dame Tariana Turia, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Lady Tureiti Moxon, Dame Naida Glavish and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirang.
Dame Tariana Turia, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Lady Tureiti Moxon, Dame Naida Glavish and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirang.

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The Government's olive branch come after five women, including Dame Tariana Turia, Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, lodged an application to the tribunal on Monday for an urgent hearing, claiming the Government was destroying Whānau Ora by stealth.

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Three private Whānau Ora commissioning agencies use government funding to contract providers to work with families to turn their lives around, often after a crisis around something such as family violence, other crime, or drug or alcohol addiction.

While Whānau Ora received an increase in the 2019 Budget, $80 million over four years, the commissioning agencies are concerned that some of the funding increase slated for Whānau Ora is bypassing the agencies.

They want control over any funding dubbed whānau ora and say that not just anybody can deliver whānau ora.

The women wrote to Ardern in November last year expressing no-confidence in Henare as Whānau Ora Minister but did not get a response.

Turia, who founded Whānau Ora while the Māori Party was in partnership with the National Government, accused Ardern of "being out of her depth".

Dame Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dame Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It is understood that Ardern wants to hold a meeting with Labour's senior Māori MPs, such as Henare, Kelvin Davis, Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson, along with the tribunal claimants.

The three commissioning agencies cover the North Island, the South Island and the Pacific Island community but only the North Island agency, Te Pou Matakana, is involved in the tribunal claims.

The increase in funding was announced today by Henare during the Labour caucus retreat at Martinborough in the Wairarapa.

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It will amount to $3m extra combined in the current financial year to the three agencies.

He said that of the $80m extra over four year announced in the Budget, almost two thirds of it would go directly to the commissioning agencies.

He said that in Budget 2019, $20m in funding had been earmarked "to explore new localised Whānau Ora commissioning".

"That process is now complete and allocations will be announced shortly."

"We know that Whānau Ora is changing the lives of thousands of families," said Henare.

"We are proud to build on the gains already made by allocating an additional $3 million in the current financial year to the three existing agencies who deliver this important work."

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It is not clear yet whether the locally identified work will be done through the commissioning agencies.

But speaking to the Herald earlier this week, Henare indicated that some of that work could bypass the commissioning agencies and some of it could be commissioned through them.